The last post was about mad, mad myths about parenthood—Now let’s turn to the mad, mad myths about those who don’t have kids by choice. From interviewing over a hundred couples for Families of Two, here are my top, top four: First, the biggest I heard then and what still seems to be the most common:
Those who don’t choose not to have kids are selfish, self-absorbed people
In interviewing many couples and in just talking to folks who have chosen not to have kids, I’ve found that people who’ve make this choice often see far beyond themselves and the consequences of their actions. They are involved in their communities, churches, nonprofit causes they care about, including those that help kids.
On this score it is also important to define what we mean by “selfish”.
Wikipedia has a good discussion on this topic—here is the subsection of “the issue of selfishness”on its Childfree page:
“Some opponents of the childfree choice consider such a choice to be “selfish”. The rationale of this position is the assertion that raising children is a very important activity (childfree author Virginia Postrel calls it “the most important work most people will ever do”), and so not engaging in this activity must therefore mean living one’s life in service to one’s self.
There are two value judgments behind this idea: One is that individuals should endeavor to make some kind of meaningful contribution to the world. The other is that the best way to make such a contribution is to have children. For some people, one or both of these assumptions may be true, but others prefer to direct their time, energy and talents elsewhere, in many cases toward improving the world that today’s children will inherit.
Proponents of the childfree choice posit that choosing not to have children is no more or less selfish than choosing to have children, and in fact choosing to have children may be the more selfish choice especially when poor parenting creates many long term problems for both the children themselves and society at large. The decision to become a parent is often based on characteristically “selfish” and egotistical motives as well.
David Benatar argues that deciding to bring a child into this world does not have the potential person’s interest at mind but it’s the parents’ own desire (to enjoy child-rearing) that is at the heart of such a decision. Hence a childfree person is no more selfish than a person who has chosen to have a child. In fact, it can be the case that a parent is more selfish for the above stated reason.
There is also the question as to whether having children really is such a positive contribution to the world in an age when there are so many concerns about overpopulation, pollution and depletion of non-renewable resources. Some critics, however, argue that such analyses of breeding may understate the expected benefits of reproduction to society – e.g. a greater labor force, which may also provide greater opportunity to solve social problems as well – and overstate the costs.
Many childfree people are active in community volunteerism, are teachers, librarians, and authors of children’s books. Service groups, community theaters, and even youth centers, benefit from the many hours of work given by childfree people. Some childfree relatives assist in providing tuition assistance to nieces and nephews seeking higher education or specialized training in an area of interest or talent (music, swimming, acting, or horseback riding lessons, for example). Childfree advocates point to these activities as evidence that the childfree can and do contribute to the support of children in the society in ways other than providing offspring themselves.”
What are other common myths?
Those who don’t have kids by choice are more likely to have had troubled childhoods
They are no more likely to come from troubled childhoods than children that grow up to become parents. Very often, those who did have troubled childhoods want to have children to give their children the childhood they never had, or ultimately be a means by which they heal their own wounds from the past.
Those who don’t have kids by choice don’t like kids
While there are those that would say they don’t like kids, the lion’s share of childfree couples I interviewed did like kids; they just did not want them to become the major focus of their lives. And some even wanted that—I interviewed many people who were in occupations that are all about kids, such as teachers, child care workers, and working with mentally and physically disabled children.
Those who don’t have kids have lots of disposal income!
Not true from the couple I interviewed–I found that people from all socio-economic backgrounds make this decision, from professional nannies to senior partners in law firms.
The fact is we are from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all lifestyles. We have just made one major choice in life that is different than most.
What myths do you see most out there? As someone who is childfree what is the one thing you wish could be set straight?